Day 3 had us up early and traveling back the way we had been the afternoon before. The Applegate Valley AVA in Southern Oregon established in 2000, is actually a sub AVA of the Rogue Valley AVA. From California’s border runs north 50 miles to the Rogue River west of Grants Pass.
We arrived early to Cowhorn to meet Bill Steele. This Southern Oregon vineyard is Demeter Certified Biodynamic and is a bucolic setting on Eastside Road that runs along the Applegate River. We did an interview with Bill in the vineyard and walked the property before heading into the beautiful modern tasting room to do a tasting with Bill. The tasting room features a large window that looks out onto the vineyard and the valley, which is reflected in the shiny white glass behind the tasting bar, allowing you the view while facing either direction.
The wines here are Rhône varieties primarily and the finese on the winemaking is pretty spectacular. Everything is done with native yeast. I have to admit the grounds were so beautiful, I really didn’t want to leave. We will dive in deep to our visit in a separate post and tell you about Bill, biodynamics, the patio, gardens and the tasting room. Their tasting room was the first in the US to meet the “Living Building Challenge”.
You can look forward to our in depth interview with Bill coming up soon.
We left unwillingly. We could have stayed all day (or perhaps forever). But we had another appointment and this one was a bit of a drive.
North to the Umpqua Valley
We were headed toward Roseburg in the Umpqua Valley about 2 hours North. The Umpqua Valley AVA is a little older, established in 1984. We jumped back on Route 238 and took the scenic (and shorter) route to Grants Pass where we grabbed a bite and got on the 5. Yes it was freeway, but it’s Southern Oregon, so the views are still pretty spectacular.
We exited onto the 99 around Cow Creek and then took Route 42 out to Ten Mile where Girardet Vineyards is located. Mind you….our GPS had a little trouble out here and we ended up coming into the property the back way. I suggest downloading a map ahead of time and not relying on GPS.
Girardet is one of the older wineries in this area planting the vineyard back in 1971. The Girardets (Philippe and Bonnie) got in their VW bus and drove the country looking for vine starts. They picked up some French varieties from Wente and then planted some of the French hybrids that they picked up in New York; Baco Noir, Seyval Blanc, Cayuga among others. Marc was born in 1975 just after this experiment had begun. He now runs the vineyard and winery and he took some time to speak to us on the beautiful covered patio with a picnic table, next to the tasting room. After our chat he took us through the winery and drove us up into the vineyard to see the views. Vines do love a view.
We finished this stop with a tasting which included some of the Italian varieties that Marc has added on the newer section of the vineyard where they found ancient marine bed shale. We made some friends in the tasting room before heading back on the road to Newburg, where we would stop for the night. This winery has a great history that we look forward to sharing with you.
Coming up Next…
Next we head North, first to the Columbia Gorge to visit the waterfalls on the Oregon side, then onto the Washington side to visit Syncline winery. From there it is off to the Yakima Valley to visit with Seth Kitzke of Kitzke Cellars and Upsidedown Wine and then enjoy sunset with Jonathan and Mike Sauer at the iconic Red Willow Vineyard.
We headed out early. Not pre-dawn, but early enough to beat the heat in Death Valley. It was the top of a 12 day road trip that would take us almost 3800 miles, through so much stunning scenery that we almost became numb to the beauty. Almost.
This was the Flash Tour 2019, that we are dubbing “The Scenic Route”. We visited vineyards and winerys and met many really wonderful people. We look forward to telling you each of their stories. But for now, we will tell you ours. This is our adventure. A sometimes over-planned 12 day epic trip that was filled with exceptional places, some of which were far beyond our expectations. A few things were skipped along the way as we prioritized in the moment. So hop on for the adventure!
Back to the top of the drive. Day One’s plan, out early to travel North to Lake Tahoe. We could have taken a quicker route, going through some expansive empty desert, but, with all the driving on this trip, we opted to take the scenic route.
We headed North out of Vegas, passing the exit to Mount Charleston, up past Creech Air Force Base, past the High Desert State Prison and on to the Armagosa Valley. The morning light gave us a fresh morning feel, a start to the day and our adventure. My cannister of hot coffee was close by to help me slowly enter the day.
From the Armagosa Valley we took a turn south, as anti-productive as that seems for a trip north. This was onto Route 373 which would take us to Death Valley Junction. There we would pick up Route 190 taking us into California and Death Valley National Park. We soaked in the expansive arid beauty of the area and stopped for a quick break at the Furnace Creek Visitors center.
Furnace Creek is a small oasis of green in the midst of the Valley, with places to stay or camp. We continued North from here passing the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Panamint Spring and then stopped at the Father Crawley Vista Point. It was time to stretch our legs before getting onto Route 136 which took us to US Route 395.
This drive took us through the quaint towns of Lone Pine & Independence. Roads here were lined with banners and bunting for the previous day’s Fourth of July Celebrations. By this time our tummies were grumbling and we headed toward a rest area Michael discovered on a previous trip.
Division Creek Rest Area
Division Creek Rest Area sits on Division Creek and has views of Mt. Whitney, Black Mountain and Mt. Pinchot in Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. We pulled out the cooler to a picnic table and fended off the birds while enjoying the sounds of the creek and the view of the snow capped peaks.
In this beautiful setting there is a darker side. The rest area tells the story of this plentiful valley and the Piute Indians who lived here, who were bit by bit driven out as settlers took the area. You can explore the details of the story here.
Back on the road we drove north through Big Pine and into the Inyo National Forest. We passed Mono Lake and the back entrance to Yosemite and drove through the Stanislaus National Forest.
At last we turned on the tiny Route 756 to head to Lake Tahoe. The drive up the mountain to get to the Lake which sits at 6,237 feet above sea level reminded me of how far we had come. Earlier in Death Valley, the elevation was 286 feet BELOW sea level.
South Lake Tahoe
As we arrived on the Lake in South Lake Tahoe, it dawned on me that the day before was the 4th of July and while the Independence Day fireworks were done, the lake was still teaming with visitors for the holiday weekend. We headed to Zephyr Cove to set up to catch sunset views to find it packed. So we traveled further North and found a place to park at Logan Shoals Vista Point. After a bit of exploring, and a bit of getting lost and climbing, we settled on a spot just above the lake where we could camp out and watch sunset.
By the time the sun had set we were hungry! We headed back to our hotel for the night in Minden and then headed late night to the Carson Valley Inn & Casino, to Katie’s Country Kitchen for a good ole stick to your ribs dinner (or breakfast…I had the breakfast burrito). While waiting for our food, we checked our social media. We found another earthquake had shaken Las Vegas and LA just a few hours earlier. The shallow quake had friends from both cities reporting waves in their pools. We checked with the neighbors to be sure the house looked okay and the cat sitter to check in on Loki. We then finished our dinners and headed back to catch a bit of sleep.
Day Two had us up early and traveling North around Reno. We took Route 44 to the Lassen Volcanic National Forest, stopping to enjoy views of Lassen Peak, then traveling North on Route 89 to take in some spectacular views of Mt. Shasta.
On to Oregon
We continued up through Ashland and Medford on Interstate 5. We veered off on Route 238 to Jacksonville, driving through the super quaint town as it teamed with visitors. Then it was out into the country, venturing into Southern Oregon Wine Country in the Rogue and Applegate Valleys. Our first stop would be at Wooldridge Creek Winery and Creamery.
I had spoken with Monica at Wooldridge Creek via email a bit before our trip. Sadly for us, a staff member was getting married this day, so most of the staff would be away. While there would be no one to give us a full tour of the property, they gave us permission to photo to our hearts content.
The property houses goats, chickens and a garden on top of the vineyard. This is a perfect spot to spend an afternoon. Just bring a cooler, because you will want to leave with some of their specialty products. They set us up with a tasting out on the crush pad with a cheese and charcuterie platter. Everything on the platter was made on site, most of it grown here also. It was a delightful sensory experience enjoying wines from the site with mustards, cheeses and pickles from the site. (You will need to watch for our future post for all the details).
After a visit to the barrel room and a bit of time in the vines, we picked up a few bottles of wine to take with us and headed on to our next stop.
Our stop at Red Lily was simply to taste. No one knew we were coming. We didn’t know how much time we might have left after our first stop and didn’t want to have to rush. We arrived at Red Lily, just before their last pours of the day. This winery focuses on Italian varieties. Our tasting was served in test tubes in a test tube rack that we could take with us to the patio.
After our tasting we strolled to the river or creek that runs along the property. Red adirondack chairs dot the shore, many right in the water with people cooling their feet with a glass of wine in hand. There was a bar with bottles and glasses, picnic tables, live music and a food truck up the hill by the winery. It was a lovely place to spend an afternoon. One tree was roped off as there was an otter nest that they did not want disturbed.
We soaked up a bit of ambience and headed back to Medford to our hotel for the evening.
Next up we visit Cowhorn Vineyard a biodynamic vineyard in the Applegate Valley. We then travel north to the Umpqua Valley and Girardet, where they planted French and French American hybrids in the early 70’s!
It’s no secret that I’m kinda infatuated with Oregon wines. More than just the wines…it’s the people behind them. That whole “Keep Portland Weird” thing, kinda speaks for much of Oregon. But then again, with all the delicious weirdness, there is a simple, elegant classy side also. I love it so much, let’s delve in a little.
The Oregon Wine Trailblazers
This is a relatively new region for wine. The first winery, post prohibition, appeared in southern Oregon’s Umpqua Valley back in 1961, thanks to Richard Sommer who refused to listen to the UC Davis folks who told him it wouldn’t work. There were a couple of other UC Davis grads who bucked the trends in the mid to late 60’s and headed North including David Lett (Eyrie Vineyards), Dick Erath (yep, you guessed it, Erath) and Charles Coury (which is now David Hill Winery). If you have been into a wine store (or a grocery store) you will recognize Erath. Obviously growing grapes here worked.
My Introduction to Oregon Wine – At Home in the Vineyard
I’ll admit that my knowledge of early Oregon wine history came from reading Susan Sokol Blosser’s book “At Home in the Vineyard”. this memoir is her personal story of the struggle to build the Sokol Blosser Winery in the Dundee Hills. These were not people with money looking to invest and have a retreat in a vineyard. They were idealists and they struggled with the weather and the soils as they figured our this new area for wine. This was the way for many of the early vineyard owners and winemakers and it’s still that way for many today. (I had a wonderful conversation with Annedria Beckham of Beckham vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains that I will share with you soon, about the continuing struggles of planting and growing their vineyard and winery).
I encourage you to visit the fantastic site of the Oregon Wine Board and read all about the history of this great region.
Early visit circa 2011
My introduction to Oregon wine came with a visit back in 2011. We came to spend 3 or 4 days, visit wine country and catch up with an old friend of mine. We stayed at the cottage at Winter Hill. Winter Hill Winery is in the Dundee Hills, the cottage was over the hill with a separate entrance. There were chickens running about and an amazing view of the area and the stars from the porch.
On this visit we took in, Winter Hill Winery, Erath, Youngberg Hill, Stoller Family Estate, Lange Estate, Argyle, Cana’s Feast, Willakenzie, Rex Hill, Trisaetum, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Sokol Blosser, Torii Mor, Vidon & Vista Hills. It’s a list, I know!
I remember them all. Here are a few of the stories…
Winter Hill at the time was tasting in the middle of the working winery on a folding table. It was a humble for a tasting room, but warm and friendly, and we got a first hand look at the wines with the people who were putting their heart and soul into the endeavor.
Michael was driving to get to us Youngberg Hill and Adam (my friend who had been married there just a year before) was giving directions. Adam and I got busy talking and we missed a turn, and then another. We arrived to views and VIP treatment thanks to Adam. The views here are wedding worthy that’s for sure!
At Stoller, Adam was also a member, and he was doing a pick up, so we got a little extra special treatment. I remember a Tempranillo they had that I wish we would have taken home with us. And I remember a story about the honey that they were hoping to get from hives in a black berry patch part way up the hill.
Up on the hill at Lange, we were greeted by Jack, the vineyard cat and stepped into the tiny tasting room where they were boxing up their wine club shipment. I remember a moving experience tasting their Pinot Noir (if I close my eyes, I can still taste it).
At Argyle we enjoyed some bubbles and I got hooked on their Black Brut. This was back when Rollin Soles the pioneering vintner was still the winemaker. I remember thinking how cool it was that Lyle Lovett was his friend from college. They are two unique and iconic individuals in their own right.
When we visited Vidon, we met Don the owner, when he came in off the tractor. Don was still busy in the vineyard back then. He was a particle physicist by training and worked with NASA before he purchased the property in the Chehalem Mountains in 1999. We also visited Vista Hills. It was late in the day, and close to the cottage and they snuck us in as their last tasting. The views are stunning and the wines delicious. We returned to them on our last trip again, just before the announcement that they had been purchased by Coppola.
We’ve waxed poetic on some of this before…
You can read a little about the Stoller Tempranillo, the Lange Pinot Noir and the Argyle Black Brut in our piece Wines I can’t forget Part 1
Last year we returned to this region that had so enchanted us. We spent 5 days exploring AVA’s within the Willamette Valley. Actually trying to visit each of the AVA’s and the proposed AVA’s. We gathered so much content, that we are still putting out pieces! We also were able to enjoy the last “Uncommon Wine Festival” at Vista Hills, where we spent a day tasting and talking with up and coming wine makers.
We did a Primer on this that you can read here. We managed to visit most of the AVAs.
Current Willamette Valley AVAs
We managed to visit a winery or tasting room representing each of the current AVAs
Chehalem Mountains AVA – est 2006 where we visited Beckham Vineyards and met both Annedria and Andrew.
Dundee Hills AVA – est 2005 where we visited Vista Hills to taste their wine as well as enjoy the hospitality of the Uncommon Wine Festival
Eola-Amity Hills AVA – est 2006. We visited the Evening Land tasting room in Dundee and then drove to see the vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills.
McMinnville AVA – est 2005. We visited Brittan Vineyards tasting room and then did a drive by of the McMinnville vineyard on the way to the coast.
Ribbon Ridge AVA – est 2005, where we revisited Trisaetum.
Van Duzer Corridor AVA – est 2019, actually established after we visited! We visited Johan here and fell in love.
Yamhill-Carlton AVA – est 2005. We spent a wonderful evening enjoy the sunset view at Fairsing Vineyard (along with smores!)
Proposed Willamette Valley AVAs
In addition there are 4 more proposed AVAs, which include:
Mt Pisgah/Polk County AVA. Located near Salem, we spent 1/2 a day with Lowell Ford owner of Illahe Vineyard.
Laurelwood AVA. We visited Ponzi Vineyards in this proposed AVA which is the Northern facing slopes of the Chehalem Mountains.
Tualatin Hills AVA. Located North of Yamhill-Carlton and West of Chehalem Mountians, we visited with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate.
Lower Long Tom AVA. Okay…we didn’t make it here. It is far south between Corvalis and Eugene and there was just not enough time.
Get yourself to Oregon. You won’t regret it. Be it the Willamette Valley or further south in the Umpqua, Applegate or Rogue Valleys. Or maybe you head to some of those border areas that share AVAs with Washington. (they are good about sharing in Oregon)
We’ve been talking about the wines we tasted with Leah Jørgensen at the Uncommon Wine Festival back in July at Vista Hills Vineyard. And we have come to the end of our tasting. The 2015 Malbec is deep and rich and Leah tells us it smells like blueberry pie when it ferments. Mmmmm….now I’m hungry.
Leah sources most of her grapes from Southern Oregon’s Rogue and Applegate Valleys, but she makes her wines at Raptor Ridge in the Chehalem Mountains. She is a brilliant ambassador of Cabernet Franc, and while this Malbec may not be her signature grape, it really is delicious wine.
As this was the last wine we would taste with her, I wanted to savor it. She poured, and while I stuck my nose into the glass, she told me about the wine and how we had come full circle.
2015 Malbec from Leah Jørgensen Cellars
I have one more wine and it is a book end. The Sav Blanc that we started with and this wine are from the same vineyard. The Crater View Vineyard with all that Ancient marine material I was telling you about. So this is not like an Argentina Malbec, it’s got incredible acidity, it’s actually got one of the lowest pH’s of all the red that I bring in. So you get incredible acidity from this and it’s all bright brambly fruit. It doesn’t go as leathery, it does get plummy, but it just a very pleasant drinking Malbec.
It has a lot of structure and a lot of tannins and it’s really bright now, I wonder if you will get more of that leather and bottom that’s going to come out of it as it ages?
Well because there is so much acidity in this, I think it’s going to stay in a nice balance and I think that’s what makes the difference. So a lot of reds that we think are ageable reds, like cab savs from California, they don’t have the same acid profile, unless they add it. But it doesn’t naturally have the same acid, so they are going to have all that tannin structure and not as much acid, it’s gonna go in a certain direction. But when you already have berry fruit flavors on the palate and you have acid that’s already there it’s kinda like cab franc, it’s going to carry that wine.
Tell me how you make this then.
We pick it, it’s one of the last things that come through the door. The berries are big, they look like blueberries and when people come down in the cellar, they are like, “what is that smell?”. It is the most fragrant, aromatic, beautiful ferment in all of the cellar. It’s like blueberry pie, because you know that fermented yeasty and then the blueberry..it smells like blueberry pie, it’s delightful. It’s my favorite smelling ferment.
When we finish fermentation, we press it and we go straight to neutral barrel, so again, I used mostly neutral barrels. 8 months in oak just like the others, but we reserve in the bottle, I bottle age this a little longer. Just because I think it benefits from a little more time. We don’t make much of it, it’s not a flagship wine like the cab francs that we like to quickly release, cause we like to stay in business. But I can reserve this one a little bit. It’s not a one off but it’s something that we do that’s an extra. It happens to be my dad’s favorite. My dad love’s grilling and he does amazing dry rubs. He will do like a marionberry barbeque sauce with it, and it’s pretty good.
Marionberries…they are a Northwest thing and they are actually a variation on a blackberry. I had a slice of Marionberry pie the other night that was delightful and would have really been great with this wine and the thought of a marionberry barbeque sauce had my mouth-watering.
On other things
In between all of our discussions that you see on the video we also spoke about her 2016 Cab Franc, about Virginia, where she grew up and the amazing Cab Francs coming out of that region these days. She told me about working at Chrysalis Vineyard in Middleburg, the home of Norton. She and Asa got married in Middleburg and had their rehearsal dinner at Chrysalis. (Michael and I visited the area last year). We talked about their “Côte Clos Rogue Valley”, their homage to Clos Roche Blanche and their Grande Reserve which gets a little extra time in the barrel. We talked about neutral oak. Any new oak she gets is puncheons to allow for less surface area and she only uses those for the reserves.
Aging Cabernet Franc
We also discussed Cab Franc and it’s ageability.
When you compare it with other grapes it’s one of the few that have both (intense acid & tannins) and so that’s what makes a grape super ageable, it’s structure building, it adds structure and ageability to those blends. So Cab Francs on their own will age forever. You can put these down and they get more and more interesting over time. So even just seeing more time in the barrel then we hold the wines we reserve them for 9 months before we release them. So all that little extra time, you have to be patient, it’s hard to be patient when you are a new business, but it does make a difference in the quality of these cab francs.
Equestrian Wine Tours Oregon
At one point we got all distracted as a group of people on horseback arrived to the tasting. It was enchanting. And that was our conversation with Leah, just enchanting. Almost as enchanting as the thought of a fermentation room filled with the aroma of blueberry pie.
We’ve been talking with Leah Jørgensen of Leah Jørgensen Cellars about her wines. Today’s discussion is about her 2017 Rosé of Cab Franc. If you know Leah Jørgensen, it will not surprise you that her rosé is made of Cab Franc. She is kind of putting Cab Franc on the map in Oregon. As they poured us a glass of this beautiful light pink/copper wine…I’ll let her tell.
Asa pouring the 2017 Rosé of Cabernet Franc
Leah Jørgensen Cellars 2017 Rosé of Cabernet Franc
This is our Rosé of Cab Franc and you notice it’s very very light pink. Ballet slipper pink is what I call it. If you do a saignee, you’re going to get a darker color. I don’t. In the Loire Valley they do more whole cluster and that’s what we’ve done here and so when you just dump it right into the press, you’re gonna get a very very fine pale pink. When you have Loire rosés from Cab Franc, they are always going to be this sort of onion peel skin, just a very light ballet slipper.
I love it, it’s coppery, it’s pretty and it’s very savory, it’s very dry and it’s….pink grapefruit and then savory, like herbal. Sometimes I get a little tarragon on it or elder flower, lime blossomy, orange blossom I guess, marmalade? I don’t know, it depends on my mood, what I’m tasting.
So you say that this is full cluster?
Yes, whole cluster, just dump it right in the press.
So with that, is it a really gentle press.
Yes, we do a white wine press.
So you are really not getting off of the whole clusters that way. Not a lot off the stem inclusion.
No and the truth is, red wine gets it’s color from the skins and that’s really from fermenting and getting deep extraction and doing cold soaks. So the berry is getting macerated slowly and naturally and you are getting more extraction. We’re not doing any of that, so we’re not fermenting on any of that. So we are literally pressing it to get this salmon color pink juice and then we basically rack into a tank that we chill for about 24 to 48 hours and then we rack back into, with the rosé, another tank, a stainless steel, this is all stainless steel and then it ferments in that tank. So you’re letting things just settle out but you’re still retaining a little color and it tends to get just lighter and lighter when fermentation completes.
Buxton Vineyard in the Rogue Valley
So what is special about that vineyard for you?
While the other vineyards that we work with in the Rogue have inter-marine shellfish this particular place is on a different part of the Rogue Valley it’s closer to Del Rio Vineyards, it’s on the other side of I-5 basically. It used to be under the Rogue River, so there’s River stone everywhere. It looks like Bordeaux basically, there’s just smooth river stones throughout the vineyard, but it’s still that clay, silty loam, river bottom soils.
Buxton Ranch and Vineyard sits just Northwest of the Rogue River near White City and Eagle Point. In addition to the 25 acre vineyard, they are a ranch and raise grass fed Angus/Wagu beef.
The winemaker’s description from her site
What is this lovely ballet slipper colored pink wine like? My first Rosé of Cabernet Franc! Coppery, Renaissance pink, Degas dancer, Cape Hatteras sunset, Valencia heirloom rose petals… smells like pink grapefruit meets cotton candy, marshmallow, marzipan, and ripe apricots, tastes that way, too, plus orange marmelade, green strawberries, summer fruit salad. Deeelightful! Pairs with anything, really.
2017 Rosé of Cabernet Franc
More than just delicious
The 2017 Rosé of Cabernet Franc runs $22 and this is a wine with a mission. Leah donates a portion of the retail sales of this wine to women’s academic scholarships.
Leah Jørgensen makes wines from grapes in southern Oregon, primarily from the Rogue and Applegate Valleys. In our previous post (link here) we discussed the soils of the region. Now we get into the grapes she is growing and why the climate in Southern Oregon is good for these grapes.
Oregon-Wine-Map-Southern-OR-AVA Courtesy of Oregon Wine Board
You’re making wines that are mostly from Rogue River Valley?
Rogue and Applegate, correct.
So much further south than this. How is the climate different there?
Well for one thing, there is this perception that it is so much hotter down there, but you just have longer days of heat, that’s the biggest difference than when I compare it to the Willamette Valley. And then the other thing is, the elevation, the valley floor starts at around 900 foot elevation, so by the time we get to some of our vineyards you get some decent elevation right? So that means in the evenings it cools off quite a bit in the vineyards. So when we think of things like acid and sugar ripening, you get the long days you want for ripening that is necessary for grapes like Malbec and Cab Franc, but then you also get these cooler evenings that give off this wonderful balance of acidity with the fruit. So when we pick we get…Cab franc just naturally has high acidity, so we’re just getting everything we want out of this particular fruit in Southern Oregon.
Are they growing a lot of Cab Franc in Southern Oregon?
There is not a lot of Cab Franc grown in Oregon in general, but it is still one of the most widely planted varietals in the world. I even have some statistics in here from a report, the first official Cab Franc report* I’ve seen that we’ve been mentioned in and she kinda gives every question you’ve ever wanted to know about Cab Franc, about the plantings, including the plantings that are, I think it was based on 2010, so I know there has been more planted since then. So when they do the next grape consensus I guess in 2020 they will see a bit of a jump. But there is not a lot of it to be honest. I have to search for what I want to grow, but the growers I work with are also onboard with what I’m doing so they will plant more for me. Which is great.
So you work really closely with your growers? So you are really in touch with what’s happening during the season.
Yes, exactly, so I’m in it.
For down there, when do you run into bud break and when do you end up doing harvest? Is the season longer there?
It actually usually starts earlier than up here for the whites and then for reds, just because these grapes require a little bit longer time on the vine, I make my wine at Raptor Ridge Winery so while they are bringing in their Pinot Noir, it’s great, we don’t butt heads on timing, my stuff’s coming in a little bit later. My Cab Franc and even my Gamay, up here in the Willamette Valley is a late ripener, so that comes a little bit later. Which is interesting, comparing the Willamette Valley to Southern Oregon, Gamay is one of our last picks, which is Willamette Valley. It comes in after our Malbec, which would technically be our last pick.
*We happen to be big fans of Pam Heiligenthal and Enobytes and if you like getting geeky about wine The Cabernet Franc Report is an in depth and thorough look at Cab Franc as it is grown around the globe.
And join us back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles as we continue sharing our conversation with Leah (Yes there is more. Next we talk about her Sauvignon Blanc and her use of Acacia barrels for white wine)! And don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
Leah Jørgensen – Pirate Princess and Winemaker, that’s what it reads on her business card.
Leah Jørgensen – Pirate Princess and Winemaker
I had heard about Leah Jørgensen. There was a post of a great wine label on Instagram by a fellow wine writer, talking about this White Cab Franc. Yep, you read that right, White Cab Franc. I then saw her name as one of the winemakers that would be at the Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills that we were planning to go to during our trip to the Willamette Valley, and I was anxious to taste this wine and talk with her about it. I had no idea how enchanting her wines would be or that we would spend a fascinating hour talking with her, not just about her wines, but about the vineyards she sources from and the ancient seabed that lies beneath the top soil in the southern part of Oregon.
We are not alone in finding her fascinating; She was named one of “15 Women in Wine to Watch” by FOOD & WINE (March 2018) and her wines have been well reviewed by Wine Enthusiast on numerous occasions. She is putting Cab Franc on the map in Oregon.
A little bit about the Pirate Princess and Winemaker
Leah was previously a representative for a wine distributor in Washington DC. She worked with embassies, providing them wines from a portfolio she managed. She is partial to the Loire Valley and many of her wines (most) are influenced by this love.
She comes from a family that has always been passionate about wine. Her mother’s family has been making wine in Italy since the 1700’s, Her grandfather’s family made barrels in Austria. Her father was raised on a farm outside of Eugene and her cousins own the fisherman’s market in Eugene, and are fishermen who run boats that go up to Alaska. So creating great wines that pair with shellfish…well, that’s really in her blood.
We spent a bit of time at the Uncommon Wine Festival talking with Leah. She’s incredibly knowledgeable and passionate. Conversations with her, you just don’t want them to end. As a result, we have a collection of 7 videos from our interview with her, discussing soils and climate in Southern Oregon, the grapes she uses, the influences of the Loire Valley and several of the wines she was pouring that day including her Sauvignon Blanc, Blanc de Cabernet Franc, Rosé of Cab Franc, her “Tour Rain” blend and her Malbec.
Leah Jørgensen on Southern Oregon and it’s soils
So we begin our conversation with her speaking about the Southern Oregon Soil series and how the Loire Valley influenced her wine making.
“…we are definitely inspired by the Loire Valley, but we are very fully aware that Southern Oregon is not the Loire Valley, just like the Willamette Valley is not Burgundy. We have points of reference, reasons why we can grow some of the same varietals. With Southern Oregon, looking at some of the vineyard sites that we have like Crater View Ranch which we work with, with our Malbec, our Sauvignon Blanc and some of our Cab Franc, there’s ancient marine shellfish, shell imprints, shell fossils and blue schist, ocean bottom rock and this is all present from a subduction that happened 250 million years ago. So mostly when we talk about Oregon Wine and soil series, we are often talking about the Willamette Valley and the Missoula flood, and the influence of the Missoula Flood which happened about 17 million years ago, so now we are talking about really ancient 250 million years ago. The stuff that we are seeing in those vineyards in the Rogue and Applegate, but especially in these particular vineyards in the Rogue, they even predate the Old World. When we think of the Loire Valley, my inspiration, Paris used to be under a tidal basin, so all of the waters that were in that tidal basin around Paris are now the vineyards for the Loire valley. So you find shellfish and ancient marine fossils in some of the vineyards of the Loire Valley. That episode, when the water was all in those vineyards in that area, that was about 100 million years ago, So our geological episode happened 150 million years before that, so Old World, right? I’m really proud of that, I love talking about these soil series and the ancient marine shellfish, because I think it’s a new dawn for Oregon wine to talk about other regions that have really fascinating geological stories. So that’s really the inspiration for me, capturing the sense of place and the soils and then also the grapes that seem to make sense, Cab Franc Malbec, (in the Loire Valley they call it Côt), Sauvignon Blanc.”
This is just the start of our conversation with Leah. We went on to learn about the grape varieties and how they grow in southern Oregon, and then we talked about each of her wines as we dipped our nose in the glass and tasted each.